The Anatomy of Achievement Gaps

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Hello, I am Jaekyung Lee, professor of education and former dean here at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Thank you for visiting my project homepage.

This project started with the premise that public education is central to solving many national and global challenges and that scientific research should inform educational policy decisions. Rapid social changes induced by a knowledge-based economy, globalization, immigration and technological advances make many of the current school reform efforts outdated and ineffective to meet tomorrow’s societal needs.

The nation’s public education system is responsible for the full development of all children’s potential, and this serves to create effective and sustainable responses to global challenges for humanity in the digital age. There are growing concerns that the United States has veered away from its ideal as the land of opportunity, where public education is the engine of economic growth and social mobility.

Currently, the United States is at war and the nation’s future can be at risk. The war to which I refer is the war on student achievement gaps, a war that was waged decades ago and has proven extremely difficult to fight and complex to understand. Is American education system losing its war on achievement gaps? Can American schools and colleges still win the war on underachievement? Why and how? To answer those questions, I draw on a wide range of educational data sources and indicators across B-P-16 education pipeline (i.e., the full spectrum of birth through preschool and elementary school through college).

The following book is a culminating product of this project:

Lee, J. (2016). The Anatomy of Achievement Gaps: Why and How American Education is Losing (but can still Win) the War on Underachievement. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Revealing that more than half of American students’ academic growth potential has been lost over the past several decades, this book reframes the war on achievement gaps as the ubiquitous challenge of discovering and realizing untapped potential for all students. The book extends the scope of analysis from the K-12 to the B-P-16 (from birth through college) education pipeline and from domestic racial/social group comparisons to international comparisons with a focus on South Korea. Through integrated analyses of national and international datasets, the book provides new evidence on the status and alterability of achievement gaps, the causes of these gaps, and the effects of educational policies on the gaps. Although underachievement prevails due to inadequate and inequitable learning environments in both homes and schools, the American education system has strengths and can still win the war on achievement gaps. The book presents a new vision and strategies for education reform to defeat statistical projections of the trend.

Watch my research seminar at the University of Canberra

Dr. Jaekyung Lee — Invited Talk on Educational Inequalities and Achievement Gaps
Aug. 22, 2018